Tropical Biology BSc


Fact file - 2019 entry

BSc Hons Tropical Biology
UCAS code
3 years full-time
A level offer
Required subjects
Biology and a second science at A level, preferably from chemistry, physics or maths. Geography and psychology are also accepted. A pass is required in science practical tests, if assessed separately. GCSE English language and maths at grade 4 or above are also required.
IB score
34; 5/6 in biology and another science subject  at Higher Level
Course location
University Park Campus and Medical School
Course places


This exciting course will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of pure and applied tropical biology within a global context. You will spend your second year studying at our Malaysia Campus.
Read full overview

Highlights of tropical biology at Nottingham

  • Unique to Nottingham, this course gives you a breadth of knowledge while allowing you to specialise in a growing area of biology
  • Live and study in a tropical country in your second year
  • Gain practical experience during field courses in Malaysia
  • Work on real research in your third year, supervised by expert academics within the school
  • Personalise your course through diverse optional modules

Gain a comprehensive insight into the importance and role of the biological sciences in the context of the tropics. You will explore the particular challenges posed to humans and other organisms in tropical environments.

Yearly overviews

Year one 

The biochemical, evolutionary and genetic processes that underlie the biology of animals, plants and microbes are explored. The experimental approach forms a key component to the year, with modules teaching practical skills and the principles of experimental design and analysis.

Optional modules provide exploration into other life sciences topics.

Year two

The second year at our Malaysia Campus offers a unique opportunity to study at a UK university in a tropical environment. As well as conventional lecture modules, you will have the chance to participate in field courses designed to give you hands-on experience of tropical biology, visiting coral reef and rainforest habitats.

Taught modules will include Natural Resources of Malaysia, Wildlife Behaviour and Patterns of Life, all of which will be taught from a tropical perspective. 

Skills training this year will focus on using the primary research literature and handling data acquired in the field and lab.

Please note: The year in Malaysia is subject to obtaining a student visa. If you are unsuccessful in securing a visa you will be guaranteed a place on either the biology or  zoology course. 

Year three

Returning to Nottingham, you’ll begin the year-long research project. This is where you’ll consolidate your knowledge and work on a novel research question in tropical biology. Skills developed including advanced analysis and scientific research presentation.

Optional modules provide specialist study from relevant biological disciplines, such as conservation, evolution and behaviour, or neuroscience.


Learning and assessment

Teaching methods

You will learn through a variety of methods depending on the module. This may include:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • laboratory classes
  • workshops
  • residential field courses
  • tutorials

Assessment methods 

Assessment is a combination of:

  • exams
  • dissertations
  • laboratory reports
  • presentations 

Find out more about our teaching on our school website.


Student support

All students have a personal tutor. Personal tutors are members of academic staff in the school and they will:
  • monitor your academic progress and check on your wellbeing
  • provide exam marks and help you reflect on feedback
  • act as a first point of contact for any guidance on academic or personal matters

At Nottingham we still offer small group tutorials of around six students. This ensures you have enough time to build a relationship with your tutor and benefit from their support. Your fellow tutees also provide peer support. 

Additionally, the school has a dedicated Welfare Officer and a Student Liaison Officer who are available to help you adapt to university life and provide advice on more complex issues.  

Peer mentoring

BioSoc is the student-led biology society. Alongside organising social, sporting and networking events, BioSoc provide peer mentoring. You will be matched with a senior student who can offer help and support and introduce you to the rest of what the society offers. 


Studying in Malaysia 

Benefits of a year in Malaysia

  • Expand your adaptability and problem-solving skills that employers look for
  • Experience life abroad – discover a new culture and develop your language skills
  • Close to Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia – great for travel
  • Reduced tuition fees for the year abroad 
  • Low cost of living

Malaysia Campus aerial view 


Occupying a scenic position overlooking green hills on a 101-acre site, and designed to mirror the attributes of University Park in the UK, the campus is a self-contained and self-sufficient neighbourhood village in a garden environment with over 4500 students. It combines a high-quality living environment with state-of-the-art learning, teaching and research facilities. Other campus amenities include:

  • residential accommodation
  • a purpose-built sports centre and swimming pool
  • a students' association complex
  • shops
  • library

The University provides a free shuttle bus from the campus to the nearest bus and rail stations providing easy access to Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding region.

Find out more about student life at our Malaysia Campus


Mature applicants

We encourage applications from mature applicants. You should apply in the normal way through UCAS. There is various support available to you including peer mentoring and the Mature Students’ Network which organises social events throughout the year. Find out more on our mature students website.

International applicants

We welcome applications from international applicants. The University provides dedicated advice and support throughout your application and preparation for coming to the UK.

Please see the entry requirements tab for English language requirements.

If you are unable to attend an open day, we can meet you in your country at one of our overseas events or arrange an individual visit to the University


Entry requirements

A levels: AAB, including biology and a second science at A level, preferably from chemistry, physics or maths; geography and psychology will also be accepted. A pass is required in science practical tests, if assessed separately. GCSE English language and maths at grade 4 or above are also required. 

Understand how we show GCSE grades

English language requirements 

IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

For details of other English language tests and qualifications we accept, please see our entry requirements page.

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking IELTS or equivalent.

Alternative qualifications 

For details please see the alternative qualifications page

Science Foundation Certificate

International students only

International students (non-EU) who do not have the required qualifications or grades to go directly onto an undergraduate degree course, may be interested in the Science Foundation Certificate delivered through The University of Nottingham International College. You are guaranteed a place on selected undergraduate courses if all progression requirements are met. 

Science with Foundation Year

Home, EU and international students

If you have achieved high grades in your A levels (or equivalent qualifications) but do not meet the current subject entry requirements for direct entry to your chosen undergraduate course, you may be interested in our one year science foundation programme. Applicants must also demonstrate good grades in previous relevant science subjects to apply. You are guaranteed a place on selected undergraduate courses if all progression requirements are met.  

Flexible admissions policy

In recognition of our applicants’ varied experience and educational pathways, the University of Nottingham employs a flexible admissions policy. We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances. Please see the University’s admissions policies and procedures for more information.  


The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.

Typical year one modules

Genes, Molecules and Cells
This module combines lectures and laboratory classes and introduces you to the structure and function of significant molecules in cells, and the important metabolic processes which occur inside them. You will study, amongst other topics, protein and enzyme structure and function, the biosynthesis of cell components, and the role of cell membranes in barrier and transport processes. You'll examine how information in DNA is used to determine the structure of gene products. Topics include DNA structure, transcription and translation and mutation and recombinant DNA technology.
Core Skills in Tropical Biology
Through lectures, workshops and tutorials this module will enable you to develop core skills in scientific writing, data handling and analysis, experimental design and scientific presentations. This module is designed to develop your problem solving scientific skills. An important aspect of this module is the small-group tutorials which allow you to get to know the member of staff who will be your tutor for the duration of your studies.
Life on Earth
Life on Earth provides an introduction to the fundamental characteristics and properties of the myriad of organisms which inhabit our planet, from viruses, bacteria and Archaea, to plants and animals. In weekly lectures, and regular laboratory practical classes, you will consider how living organisms are classified, how they are related genetically and phylogenetically, and basic aspects of their structure and function.
Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour
Starting with Darwin’s theory of evolution, you will learn how natural selection and other evolutionary forces have shaped the ways in which organisms interact with each other and their environment. In addition to lectures, practical classes will give you hands-on experience with a range of ecological and behavioural concepts in the laboratory and the field.

Optional modules:

You also choose one optional module from the School of Life Sciences or from other schools in the University. Options from within the School of Life Sciences are as follows:

Human Physiology

In this module, you will be introduced to the physiology of major systems such as cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal, including some aspects of drug action. This module will allow you to understand your biochemical and genetics knowledge in the context of the intact organism. This module includes lectures and laboratory classes.

Fundamentals of Neuroscience

This module will give you a good grounding in the basic principles of the nervous system of humans and other animals. Topics will include neuroanatomy, cellular neuroscience, neuropharmacology, sensory systems, neuroendocrinology, memory, behavioural neuroscience and diseases of the nervous system. These will be delivered through weekly lectures and practical classes.

Typical year two modules

Research and Professional Skills for Environmental Scientists

This module includes research seminars involving all environmental science lecturing staff and visiting collaborators. The sessions will focus on discussion of staff members’ recent research and associated papers and research methods. Classes will include discussions of research papers and some demonstrations of methods.

Professional Skills for Bioscientists

Professional Skills is centred on delivery of some key core professional skills through timetabled lectures, group activities and self-directed learning.


Optional modules:

Tropical Ecology 
A residential field course in the Malaysian rain forest, this module focuses on understanding ecological community structure and function. Students will work in small groups for one week on research projects and set activities designed to give them experience of appropriate sampling techniques, and an appreciation of the ecological factors which are unique to the tropical rainforest environment.
Tropical Environmental Science Field Course
This one-week residential field course is based on Tioman Island, off the coast of peninsular Malaysia. The course is designed to introduce students to the enormous diversity of life found in tropical environments, from coral reefs to rainforests. Students will work on a series of exercises in different environments, sampling and identifying animals and plants, and looking at the relationship between diversity and the physical environment, especially in the context of recent anthropogenic change (eg climate change and ocean acidification).
Global Environmental Processes
The unifying theme of this module is biogeochemical cycling - the production, distribution and cycling of materials on the Earth and their availability to, and use by, biological organisms. The module starts by covering the history of the universe, from the big bang to the evolution of the Earth's surface environment. Then you will explore the major global systems and their circulations as they are today - solids, liquids and gases. In the final section you will examine the major materials - including carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen and metals - and their budgets and cycles; and the interactions between biological and physical/chemical processes on a global scale. You will have a two-hour lecture once a week for this module. 
Earth Observations
This module provides a general introduction to the subject of earth observation. This involves analysing remotely sensed images, typically acquired from instruments on board satellites or aircraft, to investigate spatial phenomena on the Earth's surface. In theoretical lectures you will cover the concepts underpinning remote sensing, including the physical principles determining image creation, fundamental image characteristics, methods of image analysis and uses or applications of earth observation. There is also a strong practical component to the module, with regular practical exercises on various forms of digital image analysis. Each week you will have a one-hour lecture and a one-hour practical for this module. 
Patterns of Life
The module focuses on patterns in the distribution of organisms in space and time, and the theories proposed to explain these patterns. Themes you will explore include biodiversity patterns; island biogeography and nature conservation theory; ecological succession; biological invasions; extinction and mass extinctions plus more. 
Additional modules
  • Soil Science
  • Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
  • Site Investigation
  • Tourism and the Environment
  • Environmental Modelling
  • Wildlife Behaviour
  • Hydrogeochemistry
  • Environmental Policy and Economics
  • Principles and Analysis of Gene Function
  • Proteins: Structure and Function
  • Physiology and Pharmacology

Typical year three modules

Research Project
The project is a year-long level three module. You will undertake detailed research on a chosen topic after discussion with a supervisor. Each project will involve collection of data by means such as experiment, questionnaire or observation, as well as the analysis and interpretation of the data in the context of previous work.
Science and Society
This module will explore the interactions between science and society through a series of lectures, discussion groups and workshops. Topics that will be explored include the ethical parameters that govern how scientific work is constrained, ways in which scientific discoveries can/should be disseminated to the wider community, the wider responsibilities that follow the acquisition of new knowledge and the concept of ‘citizen science’, where science takes place outside the traditional academic centres of work. This mode consists of a three-hour lecture incorporating discussion groups once per week.

Optional modules:

Parasite Immunology 

Considers immunological interactions between parasites and their hosts. Initially the mechanisms involved and the consequences of host responses/resistance to infection are reviewed across diverse taxa of parasitic organisms. You will discuss the strategies evolved by parasites to enable survival in the face of host immunity in some depth. You will spend around three-hours per week in lectures studying this module.

Biological Photography and Imaging I
Through practical sessions, you will learn the techniques of biological image production and manipulation, including the ability to generate biological images of the highest technical quality and scientific value. You will build an understanding of the principles behind photography and how to get the most out of state of the art photographic and imaging equipment.
This module gives a detailed understanding of the genetics and biochemistry behind the properties of parasites and microorganisms that cause major human diseases in the present day. You will have a three-hour lecture once per week for this module.
Conservation Genetics
Consider the genetic effects of reduced population size, especially relating to the conservation of endangered species. You will study topics including genetic drift and inbreeding in depth, from theoretical and practical standpoints. You will spend around one and a half hours per week in lectures studying this module, plus a two and a half hour computer practical.
Population Genetics
You will consider the history and practice of population genetics research, with a focus on a quantitative approach to the subject, with training in problem-solving skills. You will spend around two hours within lectures per week studying this module, plus a two-hour computer practical.
Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Considers ion channels at the molecular level, with topics including the structure and function of different ion channel groups and their modulation by drugs, pesticides and natural toxins. You will also consider the synthesis and transport of neurotransmitters and the formation and release of synaptic vesicles. This module involves one three hour session per week incorporating eight lectures and two practical sessions.
Evolution and Behaviour
A series of student-driven assignments, discussion groups and problem-solving workshops on evolutionary biology, with an emphasis on behaviour. You will consider topics such as adaptation, sex and evolution, kinship theory, communication, and human behavioural ecology. There are four hours of lectures and workshops each week in this module.
Evolutionary Ecology
Considers current knowledge of, and research into, the ecological causes and evolutionary processes that govern natural selection, adaptation and microevolution in natural populations. You will examine three approaches to the study of evolutionary ecology: theoretical and optimality models; the comparative method; and direct measurement of natural selection in the wild. You will have two-to three hours of lectures each week in this module.
Consider a range of approaches to conservation biology, such as the measurement and monitoring of biodiversity, and the legal frameworks and management strategies that exist to protect it. You will discuss particular threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss and invasive species. You will spend around four hours per week in lectures and have four three-hour practicals to study for this module.
Aquatic Biology in a Changing Environment
Explore current knowledge of, and research into, organismal structure and function in aquatic environments, and the attributes of aquatic ecosystems, in the context of global environmental change. Three types of aquatic systems will be covered by the module: marine, estuarine and freshwater systems. The focus will be on physiological adaptations to the aquatic environment, and ecological structure of aquatic communities, as well as the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances and climate impacts. The module is delivered by a three-hour lecture once a week.


As a graduate, you will have obtained a broad range of skills valued by employers in sectors such as conservation and global food security. While many graduates pursue a scientific career, your skills will also be appreciated by industries such as marketing, law and publishing. 

Average starting salary  

In 2017, 96.5% of undergraduates in the school secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £20,000 with the highest being £41,600.*

* Known destinations of full-time home undergraduates, 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Careers support and advice

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Our Careers and Employability Service can also work with you: assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our biology careers page for an overview of employability support for current students and guidance on career paths.


Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

Our International Baccalaureate Diploma Excellence Scholarship is available for select students paying overseas fees who achieve 38 points or above in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. We also offer a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected countries, schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees. Find out more about scholarships, fees and finance for international students.


Key Information Sets (KIS)


KIS is an initiative that the government has introduced to allow you to compare different courses and universities.

How to use the data

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.


spending your second year at our Malaysia campus
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